Dear Good Housekeeping,
I needed a few new appliances. My old Shark vacuum cleaner bit the dust for the second time and in the same week my washing machine started eating all my towels. So I was interested in the spread from your Good Housekeeping Research Institute, reporting on its expert tests of different washing machines. You’ve had that Seal of Approval since 1909. Sounds credible.
The thing is, I’m a researcher and maybe my standards are just high but I expected more data from a department that does research.
See, the “data display” included a measly 7 washers and the data itself is extremely thin – aside from the picture and the price, there’s only a short description, nothing that would help me rank one over the other.
Consumer Reports, on the other hand, reported on its expert tests of vacuums and was able to fit 22 vacuums and 10 data points on each into roughly the same amount of space (along with pictures and descriptions). This is research I both need and can handle.
The thing that concerns me, stirs me in my gut, and compels me to write this open letter is that – and I’m just gonna come right out with it here – this is some information visualization gender disparity bullshit.
Good Housekeeping is pastels and italics, catering to a largely (87%) female demographic. Consumer Reports is red and black and tabular and square, speaking to a majority (58%) male readership. Even though the Wall Street Journal refers to these two specific magazines when it says “the recommendations of these private, independent watchdogs were based on rigorous testing,” it doesn’t take a degree in feminist studies to recognize that the actual data behind the rigor is deemed as less necessary because you are giving it to women. Thing is, there’s really no need to curtail the amount of information I need to make an informed, data-based decision about my appliances simply because I have a vagina.
Information visualization is real and here and at our fingertips and women need it too.